Russia has a remarkable solution to our problem with Confederate monuments

Where Soviet skeletons come out of the closet

Josef Stalin in the Park of Fallen Heroes

Josef Stalin looms above me. More than ten feet tall, the fearsome ruler stands at ease, his right arm bent at the elbow, hand slipped into his vest beneath a massive pink-granite overcoat. His hair poufs up and back, nicely coiffed. His mustache — smooth, thick and luxurious — contrasts with a rough surface just above it, where Stalin’s nose has been smashed off. The right leg was broken and repaired. A tidy green lawn surrounds the statue.

Arcing behind Stalin is a curving concrete-and-metal-bar cage, perhaps forty feet wide and ten feet tall, filled with more than two hundred…


A SETI scientist explains how UFOs are propelled

More surprises than you expected about extra-terrestrial aliens

Image from Wikimedia Commons

I’ve seen them. I’ve been there with them.
I can tell you all you want to know.

— Elton John and Bernie Taupin, “I’ve Seen the Saucers”

It was 2017 when I first published this story about people who have seen flying saucers; it seems even more relevant today, as the government prepares to let us know what they know …

More than one hundred retired military men sit together in a conference room, looking like ordinary American husbands, fathers and grandfathers. They are rigorously trained, disciplined, and proud to have served their country. They have no difficulty differentiating fact…


Discover the secrets of olive oil on the Greek island of Crete

On the civilizing effects of an ancient elixir

I have a thing for extra virgin olive oil. Some might call it an obsession, but I prefer to think of it as a love affair. I’ve chased that golden-green elixir around the world, savoring its subtle inflections: grassy, fruity, nutty. My husband has waited patiently in elegant tasting rooms as I sipped varietals and cultivars and single-estate standouts, robust early harvests and pale, buttery award-winners.

Snack of olive oil, hummus, crackers, and vegetables
Snack of olive oil, hummus, crackers, and vegetables
Olive oil snack. It’s good brushed on grapes, too, for that professional-looking shine. (Photo by author)

At home, extra virgin olive oil is my favorite afternoon snack. I pour it onto a cracker and admire it there in a tiny, shimmering pool surrounded by a dollop of hummus to keep…


Waylaid by whisky, an urban hunter vows to taste the offal dish

With way too much information about the specific ingredients in haggis…

Haggis hunting in comfort

When I mentioned my upcoming trip to Scotland, friends didn’t ask whether I’d be tracking down the Loch Ness Monster or attending the Highland Games. They weren’t interested in my plans for visiting world-class golf courses or drinking fine single-malt Scotches. They were not concerned, either, with windswept moors or ancient castles.

They asked about haggis.

“Eeeew — you aren’t going to eat that awful stuff they make with intestines, are you?”

“It’s offal, not awful,” I would correct them, “and it’s the national dish.”

My friend Kate looked it up online. “It is a savory pudding traditionally made with…


Deciphering the the radical message of Cuban street art

From Havana’s startling graffiti to Fusterlandia’s zany sculpture, Cuban art is full of mystery and symbolism.

Fusterlandia (© Laurie McAndish King)

A long, blue pool stretches across the center of the compound. It is surrounded by tall palm trees and slippery, red-lipped fish. Looking down from his home above the water, a laughing monkey sits atop the pregnant giraffe’s back. Roosters spread their wings in the sun. Nearby, a gigantic strawberry-and-pistachio sundae with a cherry on top melts in the bright December light. There is no sound.

I move silently, glad I wore my sneakers. …


This 2,500-year-old relic makes a Western heart skip a beat

I’m not a Buddhist, but as soon as I heard about the Sacred Tooth, I knew I had to see it.

Inside the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka (© Laurie McAndish King)

High above the clouds in the forested mountains of Sri Lanka sits the city of Kandy, once the capital of an ancient kingdom and now home to one incalculably precious treasure: the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Guatama Buddha.

I’m not a Buddhist, but as soon as I heard about the Sacred Tooth Relic I knew I had to see it.

According to legend, mourners rescued this tooth from the remains of the funeral pyre on which the Buddha was cremated nearly 2,500 years ago. The legend doesn’t specify which tooth it was — canine or molar, upper or lower…


Experience two minutes and twenty-three seconds of astronomical ecstasy!

That’s what they call you if you’ve never seen a total solar eclipse…

©bigstockphoto.com/Solarseven

My first time was with my father. He decided it was time for my initiation because I was, after forty-plus years, still a virgin — an eclipse virgin.

Let me explain.

If you’ve never experienced a total solar eclipse, that’s what you’re called: an eclipse virgin. We’re talking about that elegant astronomical collusion during which the earth, the new moon, and the sun are perfectly aligned. Partials don’t count, and the moon doesn’t either. It’s a moment hung in time: a mere blink in the lifetime of our solar system — but oh, what a blink! People who experience it…


Useless information about safety on the savanna

Learn how it feels to be “on the menu” when you come face-to-face with large, wild lions…

The first time I tracked lions, it was from the relative safety and comfort of a large — although open — Land Rover, with a loaded rifle situated handily next to the driver. At that time our guide had assured us that as long as we didn’t wear brightly colored clothes, make noise, or stand up, the animals would perceive us as part of the vehicle, and therefore not worth eating. His logic was not entirely convincing. Lions have been making their living — for, what, several million years? — by figuring out what is, or is not, edible. And…


Meet a 1,000-pound brown bear in Sitka, Alaska

A hungry bear provides an unexpected lesson in finesse

Chaik, a one-thousand-pound brown bear, lumbers in my direction, stops, and rises to his full height — about ten feet. He looks directly at the man standing next to me and roars.

“Do you want to feed him?” the man asks.

We are about forty feet away from Chaik, which would be a far-less-than-safe distance except for the fact that the hulking bruin is safely situated in a gigantic cement pit, the remains of an abandoned paper pulp mill just outside Sitka, Alaska. Or rather, I am safely situated on the walkway at the top of the seventeen-foot-high wall that forms the perimeter of the old pulp basin that…


Visit a three-legged elephant on the tropical island of Sri Lanka

Sama at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka. Photo © Jim Shubin.

Sama is the saddest elephant I have ever seen.

A small adult, she has only three usable legs and leans desolately against a sturdy metal fence at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in central Sri Lanka. A hundred or so tourists crowd around the dusty corral that houses Sama and three adorable baby elephants. Most of the visitors are admiring the babies, and a few lucky ones even get to feed the youngsters from giant baby bottles. But I am looking at Sama.

Sama’s right front foot and about six inches of her lower leg were blown off when she stepped on a land mine during the Sri Lankan civil…

Laurie McAndish King

Award-winning travel writer and photographer specializing in nature and culture.

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